Tag Archives: spinning

GAL selfish knitting

I knew I wanted to do a little knitting for myself this month, but I didn’t know what. That’s pretty weird since I’m usually a product knitter. But I knew it needed to be quick and I didn’t have my eye on a specific accessory.

Instead I picked out a special skein of handspun I’d been gifted. Shannon at Spun Monkey provided yarn support for my book. Except she sent not one but two lovely skeins of bulky weight handspun! Usually I would try to design something with the second to honor her generosity. But since she’s not selling handspun right now I decided to find the perfect pattern for this variegated yarn. (check out her blog linked above anyway. She’s moved on to some fun new projects and if you like what I’m doing here you’ll love her new blog too!)


This is the slip stitch beanie by Sarah Cooke. It’s an amazing gift project because it knits up fast and looks SO PRETTY in multicolored handspun or solid colored commercial yarn. It uses under 100yds of bulky yarn and with the slip stitch pattern it is perfect for blending and mixing the colors of the yarn.


I love how squishy the hat is. The fabric is dense and cozy and warm. And I think this pattern would be perfect for any soft yarn with so many gorgeous colors that you might have trouble with it overwhelming the pattern.



Spinning project

I’ve been participating* in a rare breed spin-along hosted by Joanna of the Knit Spin Farm podcast. Participating is a loose word as I’m the slowest spinner ever when I’m on a knitting deadline (and I’m always on deadline from now to next August)

eight colors shetland

But I’ve had this lovely shetland in my stash for ages and I’m glad to finally be spinning it up. I got 2oz of 4 colors at the NH Sheep & Wool festival back in 2009. I overdyed half of each with henna first, but the henna was old and the colors were mustardy yellow. Not exactly what I was looking for. However that mustard turned out to be the perfect base for overdying with red food coloring. The combo gave me those deep orangey reds above. And the color is saturated enough that even the charcoal black fiber shows some of the dye color.

I’m spindle spinning these fibers and plying them back onto themselves to create sport-ish weight two ply yarns. Not sure what I’ll do with them, but I’m thinking colorwork, gorgeous earth-toned colorwork.

a return to spinning

It must be autumn. I know, because I’ve started spinning again.

return to spinning

I knit all year ’round. But I know there are people who mainly knit in the fall and winter. That’s how I am with spinning. It drops off in spring and I don’t spin at all during the summer.

little spindle

Don’t know why that is, but it’s the truth. I’m really just a knitter who likes to spin. Not a Spinner with a capital “S.” Part of my spinning revival every fall is due to the fiber festivals. I know I’m going to want to buy fiber at Rhinebeck. But I have trouble justifying that to myself when I haven’t touched last year’s fiber yet.

pretty little cop

This is a friesian wool, blended with mohair and alpaca from the Mountain Fiber Folk. I’m hoping to finish this and then spin my wool/mohair/alpaca/sparkle blend which I picked up at Rhinebeck last year. I think the two will look very nice plied together, don’t you?

blue mohairwool

hint of spinning

My drop spindle has been coming out to play recently!

blue gray spinning 3

I’m not much of a spinner, usually I’m only spinning when I have something I want to knit with hand spun. This is different though, I have no idea what it’ll be, or even if I’m going to do two or three plies. I’m letting the wool dictate what happens next.

blue gray spinning1

And right now the wool just wants to be spun. I’m pretty sure I know why I got this spinning project out of the closet. I’ve been knitting so many deadline things (and getting SO CLOSE) on some of them. I’m in that stage where the end is in sight, and so my brain has moved on to the next project. But I can’t start the next project until I do some more math, so I’ve turned to spinning instead.

blue gray spinning2

It’s not going very quickly. I’m doing 5, maybe 10, minutes in the evening. And at that only a few times a week. But it’s a lot more progress than not spinning at all would be!

I wish I could tell you about the fiber… I started this project ages and ages ago and I’ve misplaced the fiber tag. I didn’t think that’d be a problem, I could just check my fiber stash on ravelry – right? Well apparently I’ve stashed two different balls of blue and gray roving. This one looks more like the friesian wool/mohair/alpaca blend from Mountain Fiber Folk. But it doesn’t spin like it has much alpaca in it. I would’ve said it was a pure wool, like the romney/border cross I picked up at NH Sheep and Wool. Either way this is from deep stash, I got the fiber back in 2009 or maybe 2010…


It’s hard to accept it’s spring because it’s been snowing outside my office window All. Morning. Long. the problem with snow is that it carries deceptively little water. And our soil needs the water.

Oh well. In the mean time, the spring issue of Ennea Collective is out! I love these wonderful ladies. I’d probably love anyone who encourages knitting with hand spun, and they put together a great magazine with articles as well as pattern and (gasp) cooking recipes! Sounds a bit like my blog, doesn’t it?

So if you spin yarn (or want to) you should check it out! In fact, even if you don’t spin yarn you should check it out, because this issue seems to be all about socks. And we all know how easy it is to sub sock yarns!

walking wheel

So I mentioned that I got a walking wheel at Christmas time, right? It wasn’t a Christmas gift exactly, so much as something that was given to me while I was visiting my family anyway. I’m actually rescuing it from my uncle’s basement. Apparently my family has this antique great wheel for generations*.

drive wheel

It has spent the last 15 or so years in my uncle’s basement and it’s probably been disassembled for 20 or 30 (maybe more) It certainly hasn’t been used except for decoration since the early 1900’s.

spinning wheel 1965 spinning wheel 1960

However we have these photos of it (assembled and with all it’s parts at least in 1960) from when my mom was a kid. Although in the second one you can see the drive wheel is already missing a spoke, and the head has been stashed somewhere, probably for safe keeping…

miner head

It’s still in really good shape, although it’s missing a few key bits (which may or may not turn up now that I’ve described them to my uncle) But the wheel head (above) and the drive wheel itself are in really good shape.

drive wheel nails

I believe that after a good wash with murphy’s oil soap, a good rubbing down with oil and some replacement parts I’ll be able to get it spinning again.


I’m very excited about this, in fact my whole family is! We’ve managed to figure out that its original owner was my great-great-great-great grandmother Nancy Minot

nancy minot

Her husband was a ship’s carpenter. We’ve learned that the Miner’s heads were apparently made by a company in Chesterfield NH and sold on their own. All this leads us to believe there’s a really good chance that my great-great-great-great grandfather made this wheel in the 1850’s for his new bride!

*a spinning wheel in my family, and it took HOW MANY years for someone to mention it to me??

Handspun yarn

I have a number of designs published for use with handspun* some with Ennea, one with Knittyspin, and my own patterns as well.

But I understand that plenty of knitters are not spinners. Knitters who might not want to deal with the headache, and potential heart ache, of trying to substitute a commercial yarn for a handspun.
Especially since handspun is so unique and not all handspun is created equal even if you wanted to sub in someone else’s handspun. Add in that not everyone can afford the lovely handspun fibers available on places like etsy (check out The Spun Monkey for a delicious Vermonty example!) (and seriously, you should try handspun just so you know what it’s like!)

So I always make a point of suggesting commercial, readily made alternatives in my patterns. For instance, the Asters hat:


It’s knit out of an aran weight, woolen spun yarn with fibers including: mohair, romney wool, and alpaca. What does this all mean? It means the yarn is lofty, traps air well, has some halo, but still the sproingyness** of wool. You could go to your LYS and squeeze yarns until you find something that matches. But I’ve already done the extra work for you, and can say that Green Mountain Spinnery’s Mountain Mohair is an excellent substitution. It’s a single ply, lofty, slightly haloed, worsted weight yarn with wool and mohair. The difference between worsted and aran means you should swatch and check your gauge before starting (but then you’re supposed to do that anyway. Right? Right.)

I’ve done a similar comparison for my Hirta mitts:

in lap

The yarn here is a plied, smooth, pure wool, perfect for making cables pop. This is a much more simple swap. We can all name some good yarns for cables like Bartlett, Wool of the Andes, Quince and Co’s Lark… But for these mitts I’m recommending Peace Fleece worsted. In spite of the mohair this yarn is still very smooth, and the heathered colors make it A) gorgeous and B) a closer match to the subtle variation in the original handspun I used. So while it’s not as intuitive a substitution (and don’t get me wrong, any good cabling yarn will work wonderfully) I have put a lot of thought into what will give you: the non-spinning knitter, a similar result to my original intentions.

I’ll give another plug for Ennea Collective, they have a great section of their magazine discussing yarn substitutions. And of course some wonderful patterns designed for handspun yarns (where you can try out those substitutions, if you’re not a spinner)

I kinda fell off the bandwagon (or the bike?) back in July when I was trying to take part in the Tour de Fleece. But the lovely folks on the Ennea Collective team threw my name in the hat for their prizes anyway, and I WON! I got this lovely braid from Woolly Wonka Fibers:

wwf braid

It’s 4oz of superwash BFL and I love the mossy greens and pale blues. I especially love it for the variety it brings to my spinning stash. (most of my stash is either natural white or brown, or the brights that come from food dye colors) You should check out her roving, I love all the colors so much! If you’re not a spinner you should still check out her store, she’s got some really lovely yarns too.

I’m still spinning, slowly but surely, through my merino/silk blues which were supposed to be done before the end of July…

handspun blues

when I’m finally done and the two shades of blue are plied I think this yarn will need to be the yoke of a sweater. Maybe I’ll design something special!

and you can be sure I’ll make a substitution recommendation.

*all my patterns can be found any time you want through the links at the top of my blog.
**This should totally be a real word.

Even when there are no words

There’s still craft.

Picture 024

I’ve been knitting – but nothing that requires thinking. No math, no numbers, no charts, no designing. Just a shawl, and a simple gift for a friend.

And I’ve been spinning. Mohair, wool, silk, merino, blends. It’s not quite meditative because it involves just a little thought. Just enough thought to keep my mind from wandering.

get used to it

It looks like there’ll be a lot of spinning photos between now and July 24th (the end of the tour de fleece)

Last night I finished up the mohair blend, and since I didn’t feel like setting up the wheel to ply, I started a little white montadale on a little golding spindle

TdF day 5

The white will be for heels and toes on a set of bright green hand spun socks I see in my future :-)

I am still knitting (it’s hard to spin on the bus) but it’s a secret:

baby knitting

TdF days 1-3

The Tour de Fleece (on ravelry, or flickr if you want) started on the 2nd! For those of you (most of you?) who aren’t spinners – this tour is a spin-along that runs along side the other tour (that’d be the Tour de France – which I don’t even watch, but whatever) Spinners everywhere set goals and spin along in their own personal races. My goal for the tour is simply to spin every day (which will have me spinning about 6.5 days per week more than usual)

On the 2nd I took my new spindle project along to the bowling alley for a friends birthday party:

bowling and spinning

And then on the 3rd I got a little spinning in the morning before a hike, and then again at the end of the day before the fireworks. I took my spindle along to the fireworks, but it’s hard to spin in the dark while sitting on the ground…

Monday we had a bit of a bbq with some friends. And I was spinning while grilling:

grilling and spinning

Which works pretty well since the grill smells will all get washed out when I set the twist anyway!

The project underway is about 6 ounces of a montadale/romney/mohair blend. I started with 2oz of kid mohair locks in that gorgeous cranberry red (bought from a local farm!) I divided it into thirds and paired each lump with approximately equal amounts of my white montadale fleece and grayish/brown romney. I put everything through the drum carder until it was almost completely blended. I’ve got 6 batts. By the end of the first three days two batts are spun and the third is my goal for this evening:


The next three will go on my other 1oz spindle – and I’ll probably ply them on a wheel just to change things up.